‘Ride the Range’ Networks Mountain Bike Trails on Minnesota’s Iron Range

Four mountain biking stars on the Minnesota Iron Range have come together to sell their esteemed assets at a time when the scene has never been so hot.

The new marketing campaign, Ride the Range, features a mix of established and growing mountain bike systems and newcomers who recognize the moment.

Cuyuna, with 40 miles of singletrack in the state recreation area at Crosby and Ironton, is one of four facilities. There is also a Tioga recreation area near Cohasset and Redhead in Chisholm like Cuyuna, reclaimed land and mining lakes from their iron ore days. Finally, there is Giants Ridge in Biwabik, known for winter sports but, with its chairlift, has become a favorite spot for “gravity” downhill runs.

The timing to collaborate on the Iron Range Connection and its combined 112 miles of singletrack was obvious, said Aaron Hautala, longtime president of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew who worked with the Department of Natural Resources, serious members of the community and others to create the popular trail system, which continues to expand. A route adapted for hand cyclists is in progress.

Thanks to his marketing business, Hautala now relies on the “Cuyuna Adventure Town USA” brand that he has developed and maintained.

The Ride the Range partnership showcases all four facilities and, by extension, wants to disperse all levels of riders in Minnesota. The Duluth Trails already have a national reputation and there is a buzz around the Jackpot Flow Trail from Tofte to Lutsen. Hautala is not interested in fighting for “a shrinking piece of the pie” and wants to work across borders.

“When we can put it all together, Minnesota, from a mountain biking perspective, has enough value and depth to draw people from anywhere in this country.

“Because when you think of the total mileage, the total experience, what our summers are like… it’s a great product,” he said.

Max Peters is the executive director of Tioga Recreation Area, with 25 miles of trails across 500 acres of rolling forests and plans for more, including a skill park. Tioga’s name owes to the iron-rich days of the earth when Mine No. 2 operated from 1955 to 1961. The state’s Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board helped restore the hardwood landscape in the 1980s The pit has been turned into a 51 acre lake stocked with trout.

“We see people nationally and internationally flying to Duluth and touring each of these facilities, with enough quality single track ATV trails to really give someone a week-long experience and more than you. can only be found in a few other places in the country, ”he said. noted.

Come together

Peters is also Cohasset’s CFO, and he knows the great riding is only part of the appeal. Tioga and Redhead worked from Cuyuna’s manual to reclaim old mine sites and how a well-made hobby brand can rejuvenate a community, especially economically.

In 2014, three years after opening Cuyuna, an economist working with his active ATV team predicted annual spending of $ 2-3 million. The first impact report was based on spending on accommodation and food for passengers coupled with the annual number of users at the time by the MRN. Cuyuna experienced a 43% increase in annual ridership (15,552 to 22,253) in the first three years. The results also predict up to $ 21 million spent in the community by visitors each year for the next seven to ten years.

In 2020, around 160,670 cyclists took the dirt or paved road, a whopping 933% increase from 2011. Likewise, from restaurants to bike shops to accommodation, more than 20 new businesses have been launched. opened in Crosby, Ironton and Riverton to respond to traffic.

Trail networks have diverse and unique histories, with a mix of public and private dollars to produce them. Tioga has leveraged the City of Cohasset, IRRRB, Legacy-related funding from the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission, and others. IRRRB supported the Redhead Trail with reclamation grants and the Mineland Trail to the town of Chisholm. The system opened last year and covers over 1,000 acres of ledges, mining lakes, and red earth. It is run by the city and the Minnesota Discovery Center, an Iron Range museum, which serves as a starting point.

Stakeholders are also a mix. For example, Tioga is run by the city and supported by established tourist centers such as Visit Grand Rapids and trail keepers such as Grand Rapids and Itasca Mountain Bike Association.

“The stuff of the trail is connective tissue,” Hautala said.

Traction and attraction

Gary Sjoquist was consulted on the Ride the Range project. A longtime cycling advocate whose Minnesota Mountain Biking Series hosts on-chain races, Sjoquist sees a lot to capitalize on between the quality of the area and the facilities.

“There is a great story there, and there is good riding. It’s mountain bike specially designed for that purpose.”

David Wiens, executive director of the International Mountain Biking Association, has toured the Duluth Traverse, Cuyuna and elsewhere in the state, and kept an eye on the bustling scene.

“What we’ve found for tourism is that it takes a lot of trails to attract people,” Wiens said. “In the work in the iron chain, he tackles this.”

Wiens said runners like to go to more than one location and try new places – to take several days or a week. Do it, he said, like Summit County, Colorado, a hot spot with multiple options for skiers and snowboarders.

“Being able to ride Cuyuna, Giants Ridge, Tioga, Redhead – that’s a big draw,” Wiens said.


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